Fingertips scrabbled at rock on the inside of the crater. My fingernails were bloody and my toes ached, struggling to support weight on a ledge just wide enough for the balls of my feet. Putting the pain of the effort aside, I dug my fingers in, feeling new fissures open in the skin, dug my toes in, and heaved myself over the side.
I was breathing heavily, hands to the side of my head, leaving bloody streaks as if I wore a crown of thorns. The ground up here was no more forgiving than the walls had been; I could feel my ass bleeding along with the rest of me as I scooched farther from the edge. I had dropped into that void once and had no desire to plunge like a stone into its nothingness again.
Memories zipped through my brain like darting minnows of shiny destruction. Headlights flashing; hydroplaning across a wet road; over-correcting the steering wheel; Nick screaming as the car flips; Nick scarily silent as the car cuts a swathe of destruction through trees, plunging off the freeway, spinning in circles on it’s roof. Me, oddly silent, as we teeter to a stop nose first in a shallow creek bed. The odd silence continuing, even after I shake off enough of the daze to call Nick’s name, or try to. Turning my head, terrifyingly slow, towards the back of the car…
My head snapped up so quickly that it felt like a giant rubber band being twanged. “No! No, you motherfuckers!” I didn’t know where I was, why or how I was, I didn’t know what in the hell was going on, but I knew that Nick wasn’t here, couldn’t be here. I had seen his staring eyes, and the strange cant of his little head, flopping from his neck.
I cried then, big fat tears that burned like sulfur. Nicky was gone and I was here, bloody and broken, on the ground. I felt detached, had no burning desire for answers. I sat, and bled, and cried. So disconnected I heard nothing, had no warning, before a skeletal hand descended to my shoulder. Not skeletal as a descriptor, skinny and crone-like, but skeletal as in fleshless distal phalanges curled into my collarbone.
With a sense of deja vu, I turned my head slowly and looked behind me, up and up, tracking from pelvic bone to spine to skull. A distant part of my brain whispered, with an almost religious hush, ‘My god, it’s beautiful.’
It was beautiful; in my disassociated state, I could appreciate the whorls of color that decorated its leg bones, the flowers painted on its ribs, the jewel like studs that surrounded empty eye sockets. No fear as it released me, hand clacking as it made a universal gesture for ‘follow me’. It cupped my elbow and helped me up, slid down my arm until our fingers linked, pulled me forward.
As I picked out footing on the uneven ground, trying to keep pace with the long strides of my guide, lightness imbued its steps and it skipped towards our mysterious destination. I ran to keep up, clinging to its arm now, steps turning into a dance that spun us towards the incongruous sound of music which reached out and swirled around my mind, so that I was almost laughing as we turned a corner that I had not seen until we were upon it.
In a clearing that opened to a cavernous ceiling, sunlight streamed down upon the altar that sat in the middle of a group of giggling children good-naturedly shoving each other as they grabbed for the most outrageously decorated coffins and skulls from the piles that littered stone shelves.
‘Mom!’ A brown headed bullet launched itself from the candy fray and tore towards me across grass so green it was almost iridescent. Nick hit my middle with a force that squeezed an ‘oof’ out of me, and wrapped his arms around my waist. He grinned up at me, eyes dancing, and tightened his grip til I had to protest. ‘Wait, you’re not dead, I saw you! I was leaving, but you were there still, you were crying, you were alive, I saw you!’
He started to pull away, to scrutinize me from a distance, but I grabbed onto him and pulled him back to me. ‘No, Nicky, no, I’m not dead.’ I stroked his fine hair off his forehead. ‘We’re just being given a chance to say good-bye.’
I remember being a kid, maybe 10, and reading Stephen King’s ‘Pet Semetary’. I thought then that one of the things that I would have to learn to do to be a great writer (at that age, King was the pinnacle of authors to me) would be learning to delve into the things that are the most painful, and not be afraid to compromise my own emotions to get to the truth and honesty of the matter. In this case, to imagine the death of a child, especially when you have your own, seemed like one of the hardest things you’d ever try to write. This is proving very true for me, as I almost feel like I’m jinxing myself, which fits in with the superstitious but still somehow Dia de los Muertos. I’ve always been kind of fascinated with this particular celebration, as evidenced by the necklace I just happen to be wearing right now…
This was written for the 4th prompt from Grammar Ghoul Press: we were given a word prompt, void, and a really cool short film as our visual/media prompt. Click the adorable little badge at the top of this post to visit their site, read some truly fantastic writing, join in, vote, what have you. Go here to watch the award winning short film by Whoo Kazoo, Dia de los Muertos – it’s really an awesome little piece of work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCQnUuq-TEE#action=share